Among the dozens of diapering options, it's not easy to tell which is the least costly and most effective. To help caregivers find the best cheap diapers, Cheapism talked with new parents, sorted through scores of online reviews of cheap disposable diapers, and also peeked at the eco-friendly, washable category. The criteria we assessed include cost per unit, fit, and absorption and leak protection. For comparison, we focused on the prices of size 3 diapers sold in bulk packages of 100 or more. The cost per diaper rather than the package price is the critical number (if the unit cost is not displayed, divide the total price by the number of diapers) and bulk diapers are typically the most economical buy. Always check manufacturer websites for coupons and free samples.
Our Top Pick
Up & Up Diapers Review
Budget-friendly doesn't have to mean low quality or unattractive, according to reviews of Up & Up diapers. This Target store brand boasts a devoted following thanks to a cheap price, chemical-free components, and hypoallergenic features. On the company website and elsewhere, scores of parents tell of their conversion following the recommendation of friends.
Some reviewers assert that Up & Up's performance exceeds that of high-priced diapers such as Pampers Swaddlers and Cruisers. And while a smattering of reviews grouse about leaks and blowouts (almost exclusively overnight), the vast majority accept the trade-off between affordability and okay performance, with low price compensating for any gaps. A few online posts say the brand works best through size 2, when babies aren't moving around as much; activity, they suggest, contributes to leakage. Up & Ups don't stretch quite as much as the premium brands, which may mean a less-than-snug fit on some children.
Unlike some budget diapers, Up & Up (from 16 cents/diaper, Target) come in a newborn size suitable for babies weighing up to 10 pounds. Size 1 should fit starting at 8 pounds and the line reaches the end at size 6, for children weighing 35 pounds or more. The first three sizes feature a wetness indicator. Diapers of all sizes are free of latex, perfumes, chlorine, and petroleum-based lotions; are made from natural materials (wood fluff pulp and cotton); and incorporate a hypoallergenic inner liner. The shape is contoured, the waist is adjustable, and the leg openings are dual-cuffed to stave off leakage. The fasteners are hook and loop and the outer shell is decorated in a polka-dot pattern.
BabyGearLab ranks Up & Up diapers No. 17 out of 24 tested but still dubs them a "great value." The Target brand was the cheapest of the lot and bested some higher-priced labels, including Fisher-Price Happy Days and Seventh Generation Free & Clear. They were weighed down by poor absorption and average leakage but floated higher with good ecological and health features. Indeed, plenty of parents appreciate the chemical-free qualities, although some report rashes breaking out after introducing the brand to the nursery.
Target's Up & Up diapers are a low-risk investment with potential for a high savings payoff if the diapers work for your child.
Luvs Ultra Leakguards Review
Luvs offers a money-back guarantee that draws in parents. The company says that if these value-priced diapers don't vanquish leaks as well as the brand you've been using, it will refund your money. Based on the scores of 5-star reviews at Amazon, it's probably safe to say not many parents request a refund.
Feedback posted at Viewpoints, where Luvs Ultra Leakguards diapers garner a solid 4-star average rating from nearly 1,600 reviews, is quite enthusiastic. Parents refer to Luvs as their go-to brand, one that's preferred over others because of price, performance, and ease of use (refastenable side tabs get frequent shout-outs, with one mother noting they make it easy to check what's going on inside). Some posts refer to leakage at night and needing to swap these out for a premium diaper (Pampers Swaddlers, for example) during sleep time. Others, however, are adamant that Luvs diapers hold their own through 10 or 12 hours of uninterrupted sleep, even for children who down loads of fluids. Discomfort rarely surfaces as an issue in parents' comments, although we did come across several reports about nasty rashes. The perfume scent proves a little strong for some noses.
Experts' view of Luvs Ultra Leakguards (from 17 cents/diaper, Amazon) diverges from that of most online reviewers. In comparative testing by BabyGearLab, this brand wins points for its low price and soft feel but earns demerits for leakage, absorption, and health and eco-friendliness. Among the sample of 24 different diapers, it ranks No. 20.
Features of note in Luvs Ultra Leakguards include large, extra-stretchy tabs and stretchy sides. The diapers are contoured with leak-protective gathered leg cuffs, and contain a proprietary "leakguard" core and a large absorbent area for overnight dryness. Luvs come in a newborn size (4 to 10 pounds) and sizes 1 through 6, the largest suited for toddlers weighing more than 35 pounds.
Overall this is a high-value diaper that satisfies legions of parents and babies.
Huggies Snug & Dry Review
Huggies is a wildly popular diaper brand, if thousands of reviews are any indication, with plenty of acclaim directed toward the budget-priced Snug & Dry line. The majority of comments posted at sites such as Amazon and Target assert that the "leak lock" feature, intended to provide up to 12 hours of protection, does indeed keep babies dry and clothing and bedding safe from overnight leakage. Sizing seems true, according to Huggies Snug & Dry reviews, providing a fit that's tight without any discomfort. The elastic waistband and adjustable tabs lend an assist here, especially for children with larger bottoms. Complaints about rashes are few and far between, and a smattering of parents writes that skin irritations cleared up with Snug & Dry. Another plus is the affordable price, especially when stacked against Pampers Snugglers and Cruisers and other Huggies diaper lines.
Not surprisingly, some online posts push back against the accolades. Leakage and inadequate absorbency are problems regardless whether the child is awake or sleeping, a minority contends; one parent says the diapers seem too stiff to hold much (although another comments on their "cloth-like" feel). We read several reports about having switched to the brand's Little Movers line when the baby's activity level kicked into high gear. BabyGearLab determined in a comparative test of 24 diaper lines that Snug & Dry's absorption was only average and leaking was prevalent.
Like most lower-cost diapers, Huggies Snug & Dry (from 19 cents/diaper, Amazon) comes in six sizes, with the smallest meant to accommodate 8-pound babies and the largest designed for toddlers weighing 35 pounds and more. The sides, back, and leg holes are stretchable, and unlike some of the budget competition, sizes 1 and 2 feature a wetness indicator. Also unusual in this price range is the Mickey Mouse (Disney) character decoration. Purchasers are invited to take advantage of Huggies' tie-in with Disney for merchandise points and sweepstakes.
Price makes this budget version of a premium label appealing. Reviewers note the availability of free samples and coupons on the company's website, so if you're unsure about trying Huggies Snug & Dry, start there.
Pampers Baby Dry Review
The strong, but not unanimous, consensus about Pampers Baby Dry is that this cheaper line of diapers from a leading brand is a good deal. Many caregivers are drawn to Baby Dry first for the price and ultimately stick with the product for performance, fit, and comfort. Scores of reviews on sites such as Amazon and Viewpoints attest to their ability to keep babies dry and prevent leakage; in other words, they rank high on the absorbency meter. Baby Dry is so reliable, one parent writes, that she is sure to use them on days when it's not possible to change her child's diaper frequently. Many parents report that Baby Dry holds a lot, seemingly more than other brands, and doesn't cause skin irritations.
And yet, we came across a number of critical reviews complaining about the usual diaper-related disappointments: blowouts, leakage, and rashes. Some feedback contends that this line isn't as soft as Pampers' pricier Swaddlers and Cruisers diapers, looks and feels low quality, doesn't fit as well, and requires many daytime changes -- forget about overnight. There was also some grousing about hard-to-use tabs.
Pampers Baby Dry (from 24 cents/diaper, Amazon) claims to provide up to 12 hours of dryness while the baby sleeps. A wide core and multiple layers, including one that's stamped with a raised pattern, are identified in product marketing as the protective features. There are stretchy sides, an adjustable waist, and a cotton-like feel to the outer shell, which is decorated with Sesame Street characters. These diapers come in seven sizes, starting with newborn for babies weighing less than 10 pounds, and climbing up to size 6 for toddlers weighing 35 pounds and more. Unlike other bargain-priced diapers, Pampers Baby Dry features a wetness indicator for all sizes.
This line from Pampers sits at the top of the Cheapism price range. Parents of heavy wetters may want to use a cheaper brand for daytime and relegate Baby Dry to nighttime duty to stretch their value.
Walgreens Well Beginnings Review
Frequent specials, such as buy-one-get-one-free, often mean these diapers are available at rock-bottom prices, but Walgreens Well Beginnings reviews suggest buyers should think twice before plunging ahead. The house-brand product's performance seems to be as varied as the sales sticker. While some reviewers are partial to Walgreens baby diapers, most are more impressed with low prices than overall quality.
The newborn size earns an average 3.3 stars on the company website, where some parents commend the performance and sizing, as well as the price, while others complain about skin breakouts and leakage. Well Beginnings reviews of size 4 are more consistently positive. Some assert they beat out the name-brand competition (e.g., Huggies and Pampers) for leakage and absorbency, but others contend the cheap price is deceiving because the baby goes through more diapers. We also read posts claiming that the diaper material doesn't absorb quickly or hold liquid well, so the diapers often sag and require frequent changing -- some say almost immediately after urination. A few say Parent's Choice diapers, Walmart's in-house brand, are cheaper and do a better job.
Some feedback posted at Viewpoints links these diapers to rashes on the wearers despite the fact that the brand boasts a soft, hypoallergenic lining. Aside from the discomfort that accompanies skin irritations, these diapers also lose points with reviewers for comfort and feel; several contend Well Beginnings isn't as soft as other brands.
Walgreens Well Beginnings diapers come in seven sizes, starting with newborn for babies weighing 10 pounds or less. Like most other bargain diaper brands, this one maxes out at size 6 for toddlers weighing 35 pounds and up. The waist and side panels are soft and stretchy. The hypoallergenic inner liner features botanicals, vitamin E, and aloe.
Although many reviews urge stocking up when offered at deep discounts, the regular list price is on par with bigger-name and better-performing brands. Unless the price is too good to pass up, don't bother, especially if the baby is a heavy wetter.
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